March 12, 2012 at 7:36 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Reid to force vote on gay judicial nominee

Michael Fitzgerald (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday filed cloture on 17 federal judicial nominees — including an openly gay appointee — that have been barred from obtaining confirmation votes on the Senate floor.

Having been unable to obtain unanimous consent to move forward with the nominations, Reid filed cloture, meaning votes on the appointees take place after the Senate convenes on Wednesday and require consent from 60 senators to proceed.

Michael Fitzgerald, whom President Obama nominated to the bench in July, is among those who’ll receive a vote, according to a list published Monday by Senate Democrats.

Fitzgerald is the fourth out federal judicial nominee chosen by the White House. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out his nomination in November unanimously by voice vote to the Senate floor, but his confirmation has been held up along with other nominees.

Upon confirmation, Fitzgerald would take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and would be the first openly gay federal judge in that state.

Reid filed 17 cloture petitions at the same time on Monday, but cloture votes on each nominee will happen consecutively. For each judge that obtains the 60 votes necessary for cloture, 30 hours of debate will have to proceed, then a simple majority vote is needed to confirm the nominee. However, the Senate could waive the vote and debate by approving the nominee by unanimous consent after cloture is invoked, shortening the process.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, encouraged the Senate to approve the Fitzgerald nomination.

“Michael Fitzgerald is a tremendously well qualified nominee and not only deserves a vote of the full Senate but also a seat on the bench,” Cole-Schwartz said. “There should be no excuse for the Senate failing to take action on his nomination.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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